Spartathlon: International Historic Ultramarathon Athens - Sparta 246 km

Από 25 Σεπ 2003

Spartathlon is a historic ultra-distance foot race that takes place in September of every year in Greece. It is one of the most difficult and satisfying ultra distance races in the world because of its unique history and background. It all started from Herodotus’ account of the Battle of Marathon. The great historian of antiquity described the details of the battle many years later and mentioned the deeds of Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger, sent by his generals to Sparta in order to secure help for the reinforcement of the scanty Athenian forces against the forthcoming Asiatic incursion. According to Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta “on the next day of his departure” from Athens.

An Epic Deed

The idea for its creation is belongs to John Foden, a British RAF Wing Commander. As a lover of Greece and student of ancient Greek history, Foden stopped his reading of Herodotus’ narration regarding Pheidippides, puzzled and wondering if a modern man could cover the distance from Athens to Sparta, i.e. 250 kms, within 36 hours. He thought that the only way to find out was to try to run the historical course since he himself was a long-distance runner. Thus, he and four other colleagues from the RAF came to Athens in the Autumn of 1982 and planned the run as closely as possible to Herodotus’ description. On 8th October they started their adventure to see whether their speculations could be verified.

On 9th October, the next day, John Foden arrived in Sparta in front of the statue of Leonidas having run for 36 hours. His colleague, John Scholten, had arrived half an hour earlier and finally, John Macarthry got to the finish line in less than 40 hours. The British team proved Herodotus was right! A man is really able to cover 250 kms in two days. When John Foden and his colleagues first arrived in Athens, they were warmly welcomed and supported by members of the British community and Greek friends.

After the success of the first attempt, the pioneer of this event began to envision the establishment of a foot race that would bring long distance runners from all over the world to Greece for a race following in the tracks of the ancient runner.

The 1st International Spartathlon was organized in 1983 with the participation of 45 runners from 11 countries as well as Greece. The success and participation were decisive for the future and the development of the race. Thus, in 1984, the “International Spartathlon Association” (I.S.A.) was created.

Since then, the I.S.A. has organized the race every September as, according to Herodotus’ account, Pheidippides’ mission to Sparta was made at that time of the year. The revival of a page of ancient Greek history is established now as one of the most famous sporting events world-wide. Great runners come to Athens from Australia and Japan, Canada and the USA, including, of course, most European countries. All of them are attracted to the uniqueness and difficulty of the race as well as the modesty and respect of the athletic ideals imposed by a race known as “mythic”.

The Race

For twenty consecutive years, the Spartathlon athletes have followed the route John Foden and his team defined in 1982 when they experimented in running from Athens to Sparta. It is based on Herodotus’ description of the Athenian ‘Imerodromou’ or messenger who arrived in Sparta the day after he departed from Athens and also on well known historical events of that time. It has, therefore, been considered the nearest route to that which Pheidippides must have followed.

Briefly, Miltiades’ messenger started out of Athens on the ancient Iera Odos, or “sacred road,” up to Elefsis. From there he followed Skyronia Odos, a military road on the slopes of the Gerania mountains, and traveled through Isthmia, Examilia and Ancient Corinth. He went on to Ancient Nemea, thus avoiding the Epicratea of Argos, as it wasn’t in alliance with Athens, and he continued along the mountains between Argolida and Arcadia. He climbed the Parthenio mountain (1200 meters), where he encountered the God Pan. Descending the mountain, he continued in the direction of historical Tegea, one of the locations mentioned by Herodotus in his account about Pheidippides. He proceeded south toward Sparta. Upon his arrival in Sparta, he completed 1140 “stadia,” which equaled 246 kilometers.

The Route

The Spartathlon runners follow in the footsteps of the ancient messenger, with some small deviations, starting from the Propylae of the Acropolis at 7:00 a.m. on the last Friday of September. They follow Apostolou Pavlou Street through Agion Asomaton Square and arriving at the top of Iera Odos, they follow it to Daphni.

The runners cross the national Athens-Corinth highway and proceed in the direction of Scaramanga to Elefsis. They run along the central street of this historical city and, following the old road from Athens to Corinth. After the Corinth Canal bridge, they go toward Ancient Corinth. They continue along agricultural roads on the Corinthian flatlands, eventually reaching Assos, (100Km) a community that gives high regard to Spartathlon.

After Assos, the runners head toward Zevgolatio and from there they go up and down hills along the paths of the mountain slopes, eventually reaching Ancient Nemea (124 kilometers).

Continuing on dirt roads, they head toward Malandreni of Argolida. This is a most difficult stretch of the run owing to its being full of stones and chuckholes (filled with water in the event of rain). They go on through Sterna and Lyrkeia, where the local community celebrates Spartathlon throughout the night. From this point the runners face the nightmarish Parthenio Mountain.

As soon as they go through Kapareli, they start climbing along the path that leads to the base of the mountain. Only in recent years have the first five kilometers been paved as part of the Ártemisio tunnel construction project. As soon as the athletes arrive at the base of the mountain, they begin the ascent to the top in the middle of the night on a treacherous slope full of brambles and rocks with flashlights, markers and human presence as their guides. After reaching the top, they descend slowly towards Sangas, the first village of Arcadia at the foot of the mountain (164.3 kilometers).

Ten kilometers of this trying, fear arousing challenge come to an end for those who have achieved this destination. The runners continue on towards Nestani and Zevgolatio of Arcadia, eventually arriving in Tegea, or Alea (195 kilometers). From this point on it is only another 50 kilometers to Sparta.
The athletes pass through the villages of Kamari and Manthirea with another uphill climb of 30 kilometers – this time on Mount Parnon. The paved road twists and turns through the green, hermitic scenery of the mountain up to an altitude of 900 meters. The last 20 kilometers before Sparta begins the descent through the Evrotas Valley.

From the village of Voutiani (236.2 kilometers), the runners can see their dream, either by the lights of the town for those who arrive during predawn hours or bathed in sunlight for those who follow. They arrive at Kladas where they pass over the Evrotas Bridge. Within two kilometers, they reach the historical capital of Laconia – Sparta.

The whole city turns out to welcome the athletes as heroes in front of the statue of Leonidas and offers them olive wreaths and water from the Evrotas River, similar to the rewards given to the Olympian winners in ancient times.

This is the ultimate goal of a thrilling and admirable endeavor, unique in the world; a triumph of Olympian ideals and of the unselfishness and dedication of the men and women who brighten Spartathlon with their presence.

About the International Spartathlon Association

The I.S.A. is a non-profit Association supported by the modest contributions of its members and donations of mainly food and refreshments for the athletes during the race. Preparations for the race go on all the year round and are likened to those undertaken by a military expeditionary force.

The preparations involve assembling a large number of people with vehicles of all types and sizes. Equipment and gear must be ready to adequately set up 75 water holes along the race route as well as provide the means to carefully monitor the athletes to secure their safety and be ready to cope with any emergency that may occur. The route is also covered by numerous mobile medical units.

Crews manning the water holes are composed entirely of volunteers who are prepared not only to spend a sleepless 36 hours the last weekend of each September, but who also display a great deal of unselfishness to efficiently serve the race. Indeed, the organization and the holding of the race require tremendous effort on the part of the volunteers with their enormous responsibilities towards the athletes who honor the event through their participation. During the race all patrol vehicles register many kilometers in the usually hot daytime hours and freezing nights while crews at the water holes spend endless hours in the middle of no-where providing assistance for the weary runners.

Spartathlon is an event that links man with a myth springing from ancient history. It is a strongly emotional event for all those who are involved in it.

SPARTATHLON 25 BEST TIMES EVER   1983-2003

# A  T  H  L  E  T  E NAT T I M E  PACE YEAR AGE
1 Kouros Yiannis GRE 20.25.00 4:59 1984 28
2 Kouros Yiannis GRE 20.29.04 5:00 1990 34
3 Kouros Yiannis GRE 21.53.42 5:20 1983 27
4 Kouros Yiannis GRE 21.57.00 5:21 1986 30
5 Macke Patrick GBR 23.08.41 5:39 1990 35
6 Macke Patrick GBR 23.18.00 5:41 1985 30
7 Nunes Valmir BRA 23.18.05 5:41 2001 37
8 Thalmann Markus AUT 23.28.24 5:43 2003 39
9 Reppos Kostas GRE 23.37.00 5:46 1997 32
10 Mravlje Dusan YUG 23.44.00 5:47 1985 32
11 Sekiya Ryoichi JPN 23.47.54 5:48 2002 35
12 Ohtaki Masayuki JPN 24.01.10 5:51 2000 36
13 Kantief Rousko BUL 24.08.13 5:53 1992 34
14 Bogar Janos HUN 24.15.31 5:55 1991 27
15 Macke Patrick GBR 24.32.05 5:59 1989 34
16 Mravlje Dusan YUG 24.39.22 6:01 1983 30
17 Mravlje Dusan YUG 24.40.38 6:01 1984 31
18 Larsson Rune SWE 24.41.46 6:01 1987 31
19 Galbera Jean FRA 24.42.00 6:01 1985 37
20 Larsson Rune SWE 24.42.05 6:01 1988 32
21 Lukas Jens GER 24.46.51 6:03 2001 35
22 Bogar Janos HUN 24.49.19 6:03 1990 26
23 Lukas Jens GER 24.59.54 6:06 2000 34
24 Beckers Paul BEL 25.05.48 6:07 1992 30
25 Reppos Kostas GRE 25.11.41 6:09 1998 32

 

SPARTATHLON WINNERS 1983-2003

1983 Kouros Yiannis GRE 21.53.00
1984 Kouros Yiannis GRE 20.25.00
1985 Macke Patrick GBR 23.18.00
1986 Kouros Yiannis GRE 21.57.00
1987 Larsson Rune SWE 24.41.00
1988 Larsson Rune SWE 24.42.00
1989 Macke Patrick GBR 24.32.00
1990 Kouros Yiannis GRE 20.29.04
1991 Bogar Janos HUN 24.15.31
1992 Kantief Rusko BUL 24.08.13
1993 Larsson Rune SWE 26.47.12
1994 Zarei James GBR 26.15.00
1995 Zarei James GBR 25.59.42
1996 Vuillemenot Ronal FRA 26.21.00
1997 Reppos Kostas GRE 23.57.00
1998 Reppos Kostas GRE 25.11.41
1999 Lukas Jens GER 25.38.03
2000 Ohtaki Masayuki JPN 24.01.10
2001 Nunes Valmir BRA 23.18.05
2002 Sekiya Ryoichi JPN 23.47.54
2003 Thalmann Markus AUT 23.28.25

 

20 BEST ATHLETES OF ALL TIME

# N   A   M   E  NAT T I M E YEAR
1 Κouros Yiannis GRE 20.25.00 1984
2 Macke Patrick GBR 23.08.41 1985
3 Nunes Valmir BRA 23.18.05 2001
4 Thalmann Markus AUT 23.28.25 2003
5 Reppos Kostas GRE 23.37.00 1997
6 Mravlje Dusan YUG 23.44.00 1985
7 Sekiya Ryoichi JPN 23.47.54 2002
8 Ohtaki Masayuki JPN 24.01.10 2000
9 Kantief Rousko BUL 24.08.13 1992
10 Bogar Janos HUN 24.15.31 1991
11 Larson Rune SWE 24.41.46 1987
12 Calbera Jean FRA 24.42.00 1985
13 Lukas Jens GER 24.46.51 2001
14 Beckers Paul BEL 25.05.48 1992
15 Kumasaka Akihiro JPN 25.34.49 2001
16 Verhagen Gees HOL 25.35.50 2000
17 Teunisse Ronald HOL 25.49.57 1988
18 Okiyama Kenzi JPN 25.55.00 1994
19 Zarei James IRN 25.59.42 1995
20 Kis-Kirali Erno HUN 26.07.00 1986
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